Ari lives in a world where everyone is born with a black mark on their wrist. This mark determines their abilities and their rank in life. For Ari, her mark is outside of the main four, and this makes her an outcast, forced into hiding where she is and who she is.

When the Queen finds out she's been hiding under her own roof, she has to run, leaving her family behind, to find sanctuary in one of the hidden colonies. This plunges her into a war that she is now one of the main pieces in. Now she has to train, to fight to save the very country that abandoned her.


2. Chapter 2

I scanned the horizon; blank white snow was all I could see for miles. How was I going to find this ‘lost colony’ in the vast emptiness? I knelt down and brushed away the top layer of snow, hoping to find some earth I could connect to and maybe feel for some vibrations, some sign of life. Under the snow was a solid layer of ice, no ground to see let alone touch.

I clenched my hand into a fist, partly out of frustration, partly to melt the snow that clung to my fingers. I was alone, with only one element in my control, and there wasn’t much I could do with air at that moment. Fire and earth weren’t options for obvious reasons, and the only water here was frozen.

Suddenly, the air was an explosion of wind and snow. Five figures seemed to appear from nowhere: dark shadows a stark contrast against the blank white background. Well, if air was all I had, it would have to do. I pulled a swirling tornado of ice into a bubble around me; if they couldn’t get to me they couldn’t hurt me. I reached for the small knife I’d stowed back in my boot and threw it, blind, directly to my left. A small thump and a grunt told me I’d hit my target, hopefully something to bring the attacker down, I was outnumbered enough as it was.

My breath was sharp and fast, I wasn’t going to be able to hold out for long. I couldn’t breathe in the whirlwind surrounding me. I was going to have to let it go soon.

 I saw one of the shadows advance on me, close enough to tackle. If I dropped my control quickly, they wouldn’t see me coming.  I pulled my arms in for a last burst of speed, almost blocking them from my sight and me from theirs. I slammed my fists down—dropping the swirling ice to the ground—ears popping at the change of pressure. I launched myself at the closest person, aiming for their stomach; the easiest target.

“Oomph.” I knocked the air out of his lungs and tackled him to the ground, putting just enough pressure on his neck to make him pass out, and sprung back up. Before I could spin around to face the others a sharp icy grip shot up my arms. I was frozen to the spot; two pillars of ice encasing my wrists. I had been handcuffed.

The wind died down, and with it came increased visibility. The figures surrounding me were all dressed alike: White coveralls, tight to the body. I guessed for camouflage. Even their features were similar, with bright blue eyes, hair ranging from light blonde all the way to practically platinum and pale skin. Everything about them blended into their environment.

I blew some dark brown hair out of my eyes, it must have fallen out of my ponytail in the wind.

“You’re not from here,” one of the men stated, he seemed to be the oldest of them, “Who are you?”

It was interesting being on the other side of what I’d just done to the guy back in the forest, the one with the dashing green eyes and insufferable attitude. Wait, why was I thinking of him then? My normal battle ready mind was foggy. Damn him, getting under my skin after only a few moments of conversation.

“I came for sanctuary.” I glared at the one who had spoken, the leader I assumed. One of his eyebrows rose in disbelief, his expression screamed distrust.

“Pretty violent way of asking for it.” He glanced at his friend with my knife bloodied in his hand, an open wound in his thigh, and deep red drops turning the snow pink. It seemed too happy a colour for this situation.

“I’m sorry, but I think you’re forgetting who ambushed who.” I pulled at my restraints; I couldn’t feel my hands anymore. The group moved closer, but slowly, still wary of me.

“We protect the border.” One of the others spoke, I wasn’t sure who.

“And I defend myself from people who jump me,” I clenched my fists, “Could you get rid of this ice? My wrists are burning.”

They just stood there.

“Yes I get it, I’m an intruder,” I rolled my eyes and instantly regretted it when they visibly tensed, “but I just told you I came here for sanctuary, why would I attack you now?”

“Every outsider is a threat, especially an Air mage.” The leader looked at me like I was something stuck to the bottom of his shoe.

“Well, for one: I’m not just an Air mage,” they looked unconvinced, but it was hard to tell with their stoic expressions, “And two: I’m outnumbered anyway.”

The leader frowned, “What’s your name?” he asked.

“Ari.” I was going to give them as little information as possible till I knew I could trust them, and that would take a while.

“You have a last name?”

“Yes.” I heard a snort from one of the younger ones, but he was silenced by a glare from his leader.

“So, Ari no-last-name,” I swear I saw the whisper of a smirk at the corner of his mouth, “What do you propose we do with you?”

“I propose you take me to whoever’s in charge.”

We locked eyes and stayed that way for a few seconds.

“And why should I do that?” He blinked, I won.

“Because we’re on the same side.” My arms were getting colder, could I get frostbite this quickly?

“I highly doubt that.”

“Really?” the pain was getting worse, I started to pull some heat from my core and focus it where the ice met my skin, “So you follow the Queen?” I could feel my restraints loosening, melting from the inside. But my energy was also draining away.

His face morphed into an expression of disgust.

“I would never follow that woman.” He spat the last two words like he had a bad taste in his mouth.

“So we’re on the same side.” I couldn’t help the smug expression I’m sure I had plastered all over my face. The men all shared a look, some invisible agreement seeming to pass between them.

“Fine, we’ll take you to the consul. But if I see any evidence of a threat...” He let the sentence drift off, leaving the rest to my imagination. It was more than happy to gift me with images of torture and imprisonment, however unwillingly.

“Why would I be a threat,” I felt the ice loosen just enough for my hands to slip out, “When I’ve been free through most of this conversation.” They didn’t need to know it had just happened. I pulled out of the ice handcuffs and saw the group jump, ready for an attack that I wasn’t going to make. I waggled my fingers at them, a small taunt on my part.

“So, who’s going to lead the way?” I put my hands on my hips. The leader’s eyes narrowed. If he thought I was trouble now, just wait.

“You will have two guards on either side,” he gestured to the others who took their places beside me, “I will lead.”

* * * * * * *

The walk didn’t take as long as I’d expected. I’d thought, given that I had just seen blank white snow for miles that we would have to walk that far and further. What I didn’t account for was camouflage: All the buildings—well, huts—were covered in a thick insulating layer of snow. Not only did this keep the rooms warmer than outside, but it blended in to the environment, hiding the colony from intruders.

All the huts were centred around the largest one, the town hall as I was told by my companions.  I wondered if they ever smiled, maybe it was a job requirement not to. The town hall was where we were headed; apparently it doubled as the consul’s home so he was always available to help the colony.

We entered into a large hall, dark wood covered the walls and ceiling, and somehow they had managed to get some moss to grow on the floor as a carpet. A raised platform was at the far end, with a large chair, almost a throne, sitting in the centre. I would have expected the consul to be in that, but he was sitting at the large table at our end, not even at the head, just along one of the sides. It was oddly casual for the leader of a community to be sitting there like I’d just walked into his house on a normal day. Wait, I suppose from his perspective, that’s exactly what I’d done.

I snorted lightly, the guards responded with confused glances. The leader just bowed his head to the consul.

“Consul, I apologise for the intrusion,” the old man stood up from the table, “This girl is asking for sanctuary.”

He walked around the table to stand in front of us. He wore a white robe with blue decoration: small vines climbing up the edges and around the collar. He had dark grey hair, old, but not very old. I could feel his magic, even from where I was standing. He was extremely powerful.

“And who exactly are you to ask this of us?” He was calm, he had a leader’s voice.

“I’m Ari,” I took a deep breath, I supposed if I was going to be safe, I needed to tell them everything, “The Queen wants me dead.”

“Why would she want that?” Even he couldn’t hold back the revulsion for the Queen from his voice.

“Because I’m an Optivus.” I looked down at the floor, avoiding their gaze. The silence seemed to last for hours. Optiva were elementals with the power over every element, it was very rare.

“You know then,” I glanced up at the consul’s voice, “That it would be a great risk for us to harbour you here.”

“I know. But I was sent here, I was told this was a safe place.” I was almost begging, it felt wrong. I was independent, I didn’t need anyone else. But this time I did.

“This is a safe place, do not misunderstand me,” he stepped closer, “but giving you your sanctuary could jeopardise this, and everything we have worked to protect.”

“Of course.” I lowered my eyes.

“That is why,” he took a small breath, “You must follow all of my conditions if you are to stay.”

“Oh, wow. But-” I stared at him in confusion, “Why?” He tilted his head slightly.

“You do not know of the prophesy?”

“Obviously not.” I got a sharp look from one of the guards at that. Whoops.

He cleared his throat before continuing, “You will visit the oracle during your time here, she will explain your training to you.”

“My training?” I frowned, this was getting more confusing by the minute.

“It will all become clear after you have heard the prophecy.”

“Okay, sure. I’ll listen,” I shifted in my spot, “So my request is being granted?”

“Yes, you will have sanctuary here, for as long as you must stay.” He shifted his gaze to my guards. “Please escort our guest to the training quarters.”

“You have a place specifically for training?” I raised an eyebrow, “Training for what?”

“I am sure the others will explain this to you.” He waved his hand at us, “Now please, I am very busy. I wish you luck.”

We turned to leave, back out into the biting wind. I mulled over his words; the others? I hadn’t assumed I would have a place all to myself, but I was a loner. I wasn’t used to being around other people. Even at the castle I worked alone, cleaning the rooms after everyone had left, slipping in and out through the servants doors.

And what was this ‘prophecy’. They obviously had another person with foresight in the compound; another like the Queen. I hoped that that was the only thing her and this oracle had in common.

The hut we eventually stopped outside was large and circular, the entrance hall leading straight into what looked extremely like the training quarters; it had weapons lining the walls, a crash mat in the centre and– oh wow— a bow hung on one of the many hooks. It was long and made of a dark, almost black wood with matching arrows. The feathers so smooth it looked like no-one had ever used them. I was so tempted to go over and hold it, just feel the balance of it, but my guards had other ideas.

They lead me to one of the five doors leading off from the round room. One of them had a sign hanging on it that said ‘Bathroom’ so three guesses as to what that was. Inside, the whole building was made out of more dark wood, the type they seemed to like so much. I looked down at my feet, yep; more moss. They must have a really good Earth mage here. It was strange being away from the individual powered people, the elementals were completely different.

The leader stepped aside, allowing me a clear path into the room past the door that was the furthest one to the left of the five. I stepped through the threshold, the guards didn’t follow. I didn’t realise how claustrophobic I’d felt in the little group until I left it. The door was shut behind me, leaving me alone in a small bedroom. Was this mine?

It was very minimalistic; just a single bed, a desk and a small wardrobe where I would hang my non-existent clothes. I dropped my bag on the bed, my sole possession not helping the cold feel of the room. It wasn’t going to feel like my own space for a while.

I jumped at a knock on the door. It was a bit early to have visitors, I’d only just arrived. It opened to reveal a girl, around my age, with fiery red hair and light brown, almost yellow eyes. She must have been from the fire elementals; all elementals seemed to have very similar appearances. It was something in the magic of the mother that affected the baby.

“So you’re the new girl.” It didn’t sound like a question, why was she telling me something I already knew?

“Really?” Her eyes narrowed at the sarcasm in my voice. Yep, she seemed friendly.

“You don’t look like much.” She scanned my body, clearly not impressed by my combat clothes. I didn’t really think about my appearance much, more about its practicality. My long brown hair was normally pulled back into a ponytail or braid, and I only ever chose my clothes for their usefulness. The only thing that stood out were my eyes; they were a stormy grey, the grey that was normally only found in the eyes of the royals or the occasional lord or lady. It was a by-product of my magic, according to my parents. My skin was slightly tanned, due to living outdoors for most of my life.

“I didn’t realise I needed your approval,” I stepped towards her, hand on the door handle, ready to slam it in her face, “I apologise, next time I get dressed I’ll check with you for what I should wear.”

She huffed lightly and spun on her heels, heading for the door opposite mine. I assumed it was her room. Great, I’m living with a stuck up fire-girl.

I heard a slow clap coming from my left.

“Well done,” a guy appeared, still clapping, and smiled at me, “Don’t worry, she likes to prove she’s the best around here. A lot.”

“Oh, hi.” I gave him a small smile.

“Hi, I’m Daxon Teodor.” He held out his hand. I just stared at it. “Okay, not a big hand shaker.”

“Sorry, I’m just... Overwhelmed I guess,” I tried to look apologetic, “I’m Ari.”

“Ari, nice name.” He smiled again. It was a nice smile, kind of warming and inviting at the same time. Wow, his eyes were such a light blue, they were almost white. It was a bit unnerving, but also hypnotising. He was obviously an Air mage, especially with the ash blonde hair.

“So, can you explain some things for me?” He seemed nice enough, maybe he’d give me some information.

“Sure,” he brushed some light brown hair out of his eyes, “What do you want to know?”

“For starters, why did the consul say I needed training?”

“Well that’s for the prophecy.” He shrugged like it was obvious.

“Oh, that’s another thing; what’s this ‘prophecy’ everyone’s not elaborating on?” I waved my hand dismissively, “If it’s that important, then why has no-one told me about it?” I gritted my teeth at that last bit, I didn’t like being ignorant.

“Oh, you haven’t seen the oracle?” His brow furrowed slightly.

“Nope, the consul granted my sanctuary then just dumped me here.” I glanced around the training room again.

“Why do you need sanctuary?”

“I’m hiding from the Queen.”

“Isn’t everyone?” he gave me a confused expression. I suppose he must have lived with elementals his whole life.

“Yeah, but she sent her guards after me.” Daxon was too easy to talk to, soon I’d be telling him my life story.

“Oh,” his eyes widened, “You were in the castle?”

“Yep, my mum thought it would be safest to hide right under her nose after—” I stopped myself; I’d almost said the three words I hadn’t spoken aloud in over five years. After my dad died. After we were left alone.

Daxon tilted his head slightly, but thankfully didn’t mention it.

“Fair enough.” He shifted on the spot, “So, you know how we’re all Optiva?”

He stopped at my shocked expression.

“Obviously not,” he gave his head a small shake, “wow, they really didn’t tell you anything huh.”

“But—” I searched his features again, “You look just like an Air mage.”

“Well yeah, my parents were. And I suppose I’m part Air mage, and so are you.” He gestured to me.

“So all three of us are Optiva?” I glanced at the other girl’s door. Great, we had something in common. Damn it.

“All four of us.” He smirked.

“Oh, yeah.” The fourth door. I had assumed it was empty since no-one had come out to meet me.

“His name is Kane Yukon. He doesn’t talk much.” He looked back out to the girl with the red hair’s door, “Her name’s Saskia Kegan,” he turned back to me. I blinked back the surprise at his eyes, I wondered how long it would take me to get used to those. “You’ll get to know them soon enough.” And there was that smile again.

He looked at his watch, obviously wanting to get back to something.

“Oh, sorry,” I took a step back into my room, “I’ll let you get back to whatever you were doing.”

“Oh, no. It’s just—” he sheepishly ran his hands through his hair, “Yeah, sorry.”

“It’s fine, talk to you later Daxon.” I turned back to my room.

“Call me Dax.”

“I like Daxon better.” I smirked and shut my door behind me.

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